Joy Parks

The (Beauty) Content Queens

In Beauty, business development, content, content strategy, Cosmetic queens, great writing, Helena Rubinstein, retail, What works on February 21, 2011 at 2:37 pm

The first business book I read—without knowing it was a business book—was Madame: Intimate Biography of Helena Rubinstein by Patrick O’Higgins (1971). It appeared in my small town public library when I was about 11 or 12. Better than any romance novel, I loved this rags to riches story of how Chaja (later Helena) Rubinstein, a Polish medical student and the eldest of eight children, was shipped off to the loneliness and drying winds of her relatives’ homestead in Australia, and built an empire on a “scientific” cream made of sheep’s grease scented with lavender and water lily. Not just a business empire—between opening spas and launching products and getting very rich, Helena hob-knobbed with the art and literary set of Paris between the wars and lived the kind of life odd but ambitious and vengeful young girls like I could only dream of.

Since that time, there’s been a special place in my heart for the queens of the beauty biz, no matter how many warts are revealed in their biographies. I’ve read Jane Trahey on women and power: Who’s got it? How to get it? many times—Jane was an advertising legend who made it big back in the day when most women didn’t—but I most loved her descriptions of dealing with her client, the bitchy-beyond-compare Elizabeth Arden, particularly her account of the day Arden opened a window and dumped an entire season of cosmetic ads down on 5th Avenue.

Then there are the more contemporary beauty queen stories that recognize that they are also business content, like Lessons of a Lipstick Queen: Finding and Developing the Great Idea That Can Change Your Life. Poppy King, also hailing from Australia (it must be the weather) made it her life’s mission to create the perfect lipstick, which adoring fans, including me, will agree she accomplished with her Lipstick Queen line (Try the Medieval Red, it’s as perfect as lipstick gets.) The book outlines her vision, her girlish zest for playing with colors and instructs on how to get perfect looking lips, but it deals with the challenges of financing, product testing, manufacturing and distribution in one of the world’s ugliest and toughest businesses.

Apparently, I’m not the only one who can’t get enough of the beauty queens. Just last week, Ruth Brandon’s <em>Ugly Beauty: Helena Rubinstein, L’Oreal, and the Blemished History of Looking Good was released and widely reviewed in lofty venues like the <em>New York Times</em>. I could hear the serious literary types bemoaning all those column inches being wasted on stories of grown women who got away with adolescent temper tantrums simply because they made a good buck hawking lip liner and eye shadow.

So what do the beauty queens have to do with branded content? Plenty! In addition to the fact that most of these women were bona fide marketing geniuses, the entire beauty industry is pretty much all about content: the valuable how-tos, the lavish descriptions of product ingredients and their poetic origins, the hopeful mythology surrounding product lines that leads us to lay down large amounts of money in the belief that this dab of cream or that bit of color will make us younger, smoother, happier and more desirable. That is all the work of content—and darn good, incredibly effective content at that. Even though I understand the mechanics, even though I know I’m being played, I can still be seduced by the bad girl graphics and truly brilliant product names of Benefit, the brainy girl, civil engineer-turned-cosmetic maker story of Hana Zalzal’s Cargo brand and the self-righteous green chic of Aveda’s ingredient lists.

But also at work here is a second level of story, the very personal tales of the beauty queens behind the brands. The women who gave birth to the beauty industry were a rare breed and what has practically immortalized them is not so much their products or their brand or their logo (although every time I see a red door, I do think “Elizabeth Arden”) – it was the careful telling of their life stories, their business achievements, their marriages, their riches and their place on the social registry, stories that allow their female customers to bask in the attendant glow and feel they too, can get exactly what they want in life, if only they followed the instructions on the back that beautiful sea foam green and gold foil package. The beauty queens understood brand and the value of branded content; they enlisted the power of storytelling long, long before it became a common part of the marketing vernacular. Since an appetite for their stories remains to this day, clearly there’s still more to be learned from them. Apparently it’s true that a thing of beauty is a joy forever.

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Look in the crystal ball… and see content marketing.

In business development, content, content strategy, The future on January 27, 2011 at 8:42 am

Royal Mail recently commissioned a report that looked forward to marketing trends in the relatively near future, 2020. What did they see? Less intrusion marketing, more permission contacts, more relevant messaging, a blurring between traditional marketing communications and consumer media, plus the gravitation towards more innovative way of providing information and interacting with customers–which may not be with us yet.

Sounds a lot like content marketing to me.

What do you know, Joe?

In content, content communities, content strategy, great writing, What works on January 7, 2011 at 12:12 pm

If the Joe in question is Joe Pulizzi , and the topic is content marketing, then the answer is PLENTY!!! The founder and driving force behind Junta 42 , the knowledge/service provider referral portal that has encouraged and enabled countless companies to add the content marketing to their communications mix, Joe (who seems like a really, genuinely nice guy from the few emails I’ve exchanged with him) is taking content marketing to another level with the establishment of The Content Marketing Institute. Bursting with case studies, research, stats and the chance to sign up for a FREE (!) subscription to the forthcoming CCO: Chief Content Officer quarterly magazine, the CMI not only tells would-be content marketers what they should be doing; by being such a valuable source of content about content marketing, CMI shows them how it’s done…and done right. The Content Marketing Institute is both example and inspiration to marketers and communicators who agree that all companies must become media companies—and that the future of marketing is content marketing. If you’re not already one of the true believers in content marketing, download CMI’s ebook, Social Media and Content Marketing Predictions for 2011.